The Speaker of Parliament Hon. Rebecca Kadaga used her trip to the United States recently to urge Ugandans living in the Diaspora to send more donations in form of medical and school supplies back home without any fear of them being taxed.
Kadaga said that with the right procedures, arrangements can be made with the Ministry of Finance to import donations tax free from the Diaspora.
The Speaker, who was addressing a Technology, Trade and Investment Forum at the Ugandan North American Association (UNAA) 1st September, was responding to a comment that some philanthropists in the Diaspora have been frustrated by bottlenecks in Uganda when they donate medical, educational or other technological items.
“You should not hesitate at all to send us equipment that is both for education or medical use because of fear of it being highly taxed; with proper planning, our colleagues in the central government can arrange for lifting of taxes because we need all the help we can get,” she said.
Kadaga said that in certain cases, the government might totally exempt the taxes without the line ministry having to pay.
The Government Chief Whip, Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa said that the problem was with some Ugandans taking advantage of the system to import equipment that they intend to sale or use for private business.
“Some Ugandans misuse the opportunities set in place by the government. When you want to send the equipment, inform the relevant Ministry which in turn can make an allowance in its budget to pay for the taxes of the equipment,” she added.
During the same occasion, the Speaker of Parliament asked commercial banks to set up a construction bank to support the housing sector in the country and provide friendlier loan facilities for Ugandans both in the Diaspora and at home to invest in real estate.
“Most of the banks offer mortgage facilities that support building personal houses and this may not necessarily develop the economy to the level that we want. We want to see a construction focused bank that can support Ugandans in the Diaspora who want to invest home to build big housing estates,” Kadaga said.
She further said, “This construction will have a multiplier effect because we will have women supplying food to these building sites and companies providing cement and other building materials. Let us move the financing for construction to the private sector.”
Commenting on the business environment, Hon. Alex Ruhunda (Fort Portal Municipality) said the issue of high interest rates on the Ugandan entrepreneur needed to be addressed.
“The Chinese and Indians access better interest rates from their home banks which gives them an edge over Ugandans. Commercial banks should offer better interest rates, and this appeal goes out to the central bank, which is the regulator,” Ruhunda said.
The 29th Annual UNAA Convention, which is running under the theme “Economic Empowerment and Healthcare Transformation”, offers an opportunity for Ugandans to network and debate on trade and investment, technology, governance among other issues.
As part of the activities of the convention, Ugandans participated in exhibitions showcasing culture, art, textiles and cuisine.
Various government institutions such as the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) and the Immigration Department set up stalls to facilitate registration for dual citizenship and to accord Ugandans living abroad national identity cards.